A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on March 22, 2012 in the 5th floor MTA Board room located at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• Sharon King Hoge
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• Christopher Greif
• Edith Prentiss
• William K. Guild
• Steven Mayo
• Michael Sinansky
• Thomas Jost
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Shirley Genn
• Jessica G. Rojas
• Marisol Halpern
• Burton Strauss, Jr.
In addition, the following persons were present:
• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Research Associate
• Adrienne Taub -NYCT
• Yvonne Morrow -Concerned citizen
• Brigitta Payne -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
• Raymond Knowles -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the March 22, 2012 meeting was approved. The minutes of the February 23, 2012 meeting were approved with a clarification that the work completed under FASTRACK is almost all inspection and maintenance work.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Stuart Goldstein stated that there is plan to cut back the G train to its previous route. He said that there have not been any changes to the signage on the trains, and that this may be an indication that the changes are not permanent. Mr. Goldstein said that the Council should go on record as supporting the permanent G extension. A motion to this effect was made, seconded, and approved.
Trudy Mason said that the Council should send a letter to Shirley Genn, who has announced that she is leaving the NYCTRC, expressing the members’ appreciation for her service. It was agreed that such a letter would be composed and sent.
Andrew Albert stated that the last time NYC Transit did FASTRACK work on the 7th Avenue line (1, 2, 3) they suspended service on the upper Lenox line. Mr. Albert said that he will raise the issue of this loss of service at MTA Board Committee meetings and will press for a shuttle train to replace 3 service north of the work area.
Tom Jost asked Mr. Albert whether he is opposed to the FASTRACK program generally or the way in which it is implemented. Mr. Albert responded that NYC Transit’s explanation of the aims and accomplishments of the program isn’t consistent. He said that he wants to make sure that people are not unduly inconvenienced by FASTRACK work.
As the MTA Board and committee meetings for March had not yet occurred, Mr. Albert did not make a formal Board Report.
Mike Sinansky made a comment about his observations of the 34th Street bus lanes during the previous week. He said that at around 1:00 pm he counted eight vehicles improperly stopped in the north side bus lane between 1st and 2nd Avenues. The vehicles included a van used to transport NYPD traffic enforcement agents.
Ms. Mason stated that two months ago the Council wrote a letter about having ambassadors on the 34th Street SBS route during holidays and heavy use periods. She commented that Spring Break is approaching and there will be many tourists in the area. Ms. Mason said that whenever she goes to 34th Street there are people congregating at the SBS stops trying to figure out how to ride the service and being told by bus operators that they can’t get on the bus without paying off board. Ms. Mason suggested that the Council write another letter asking for answers about the steps that NYC Transit will take to resolve these problems.
Ms. Mason stated that a version of the federal transportation funding bill has passed the Senate. This version has a two year extension of funding. The bill will go to the House, but Speaker Boehner has made it clear that the most that he will go for is a one month, or if pushed a two month, extension. Ms. Mason said that the Council should make a written request to MTA Chairman Lhota to use all means at his disposal, including a visit to Washington, to convince legislators to pass a longer term extension to transportation funding. Ms. Mason made a motion to send such a letter to Mr. Lhota.
Toya Williford said that no members are disagreeing with sending this letter and that the letter could be written without further discussion. Mr. Goldstein asked if the Council should communicate with the Governor to ask him to lobby for a federal transportation bill extension. He said that this would be appropriate as the members are gubernatorial appointees.
Ms. Mason suggested that Mr. Lhota would be an appropriate person to visit House leaders, as he is a Republican and his objectives in this area are focused. She said that the Council should recommend that he be accompanied by appropriate members of New York Congressional delegation.
Edith Prentiss said that the Council should also communicate with legislators as we are the riders’ representatives. The proposal to compose and send to Mr. Lhota the letter discussed was approved.
Mr. Goldstein asked whether the local Business Improvement District could be of assistance with regard to issues surrounding the 34th Street SBS. Mr. Henderson responded that he would consult with the Dan Biederman, the director of the 34th Street Partnership, about the BID’s position on and issues with SBS on 34th Street.
Chris Greif asked if the Court Square G station will be accessible. Ms. Prentiss responded stating that she was not able to get an answer to that question. Mr. Henderson and Ms. Wells stated they will ask and get an answer.
Mr. Greif commented on the B83 bus and noted that this bus is still problematic. He said that he had received reports of people waiting from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm for the bus today.
Ms. Prentiss stated that she still doesn’t understand why the platform “humps” in the subway system cannot be in the same place in every station. The humps are designed to equalize the height of the platform with the level of train doorways. She said that humps do not line up with the same doorways on a train as you move down the line. Ms. Prentiss said that without consistency riders won’t make the change from paratransit to subways, even if the stations they need are considered accessible.
Mr. Jost suggested that the Council we should survey stations to find whether there is inconsistency in hump locations. Ken Stewart commented that there are NYC Transit employees who are supposed to perform this assessment. He said that the Council should get NYC Transit to commit to a deadline and force them to do their jobs.
Mr. Albert said that that there should be a survey of stations and a report of the survey findings, which would be released through a press event.
Mr. Jost suggested that the Council examine other transit systems to see how they are marking the boarding positions for wheel chairs on their rail platforms.
Mr. Goldstein commented on a shortcoming in signage in the subway stations. He said that there is no way for seniors to know how much their fare is and that MetroCard Vending Machines do not have information on the cost of a reduced fare trip. Mr. Goldstein said that there should be signage posted that gives information about fares, as it is not apparent what the fares are. Mr. Albert said he would make a suggestion to this effect.
Mr. Jost made a suggestion that the accessible station list be distributed more broadly. Ms. Mason suggested that they should be provided to Visitor Centers at the City’s department stores. Sharon King Hoge added that hospitals should have copies of the list. Ms. Prentiss suggested that a list of locations where the accessible station list should be available could be developed.
Ms. Mason suggested Sam Schwartz be invited as a guest speaker at the next PCAC quarterly meeting.
Introduction of Robert Hickey, NYCT Office of Management and Budget Unit Chief – Revenue Analysis and William Amarosa, NYCT Office of Management and Budget Manager – Ridership and Revenue Analysis to discuss the process of developing ridership statistics for the subway system.
A copy of the presentation given by the guests is on file in the PCAC offices.
Mr. Hickey said that MetroCards have two types of fields, fixed and variable. The fixed field includes information that does not change, such as the card serial number, while the variable field includes information that changes with use, such as the monetary value stored on the card.
He said that all turnstiles have fare tables that allow them to decide how much is to be deducted for each trip and what classes of cards are allowed at that turnstile. Turnstiles also have a negative list for cards, which tells what serial numbers should not be accepted. There is no need for remote access of a central database to verify cards.
Mr. Hickey said that a usage transaction record is created for each turnstile and that records are transmitted to a Station Controller (typically located in a turnstile casing). The Station Controller then transmits usage data to an Area Controller (located on Staten Island). The data is then sent to the Automatic Fare Control back office and after processing monthly data are available on the second day of the month, but late receipt of some transaction records often pushes this back to as late as the fifth day of the month. A few records typically come in after the data are compiled.
Mr. Amarosa commented on NYC Transit’s ridership analysis methodology. He said that all riders are counted except employees. He also said that January, July and August are the lowest ridership months and that Mondays and Fridays have lower ridership than other weekdays. He stated that the peak year for ridership was 1946. Since 1981, only two years (1983 and 2009) have seen ridership declines, and last year’s weekend ridership was almost the highest ever. Mr. Amarosa said that weekend and off peak ridership has increased faster than peak hour ridership in recent years.
Ms. Prentiss asked if we assume that this is because of occupational or lifestyle changes. Mr. Amarosa responded that it is because of both of these factors.
Mr. Amarosa said that considering the highest ridership days dating back to 1985, the busiest days occurred in fall 2011. Mr. Albert stated that he thought it interesting that the holiday periods had many high ridership days, yet NYC Transit has implemented light riding schedules during the holidays.
Mr. Amarosa posed the question of why ridership is increasing and said that it is generally due to long term reasons. These include improved service, less crime, a lower effective fare because of MetroCard, job growth, tourism, changing demographics, and the growth of activity in off peak periods. He said that the Office of Management and Budget does not develop ridership figures for lines per se, but they group ridership figures by borough, line segment and station. The Operations Planning staff allocates ridership to specific lines and develops line ridership numbers.
The formal presentation concluded and a question and answer session began.
Mr. Jost asked whether this information is used as a factor to increase or decrease service. Mr. Amarosa said that it does not have this impact directly. The data that the Office of Management and Budget develops is shared with Operations Planning, which uses it as inputs to its studies. Mr. Jost said that on the Staten Island Railway fares are collected only at the two northernmost stations. He asked whether NYC Transit could use MetroCard data to look at where riders leave the system. Mr. Hickey responded that Transit uses models that assume riders leave the system at one end of a round trip through the same station at which they enter the system at the other end of the round trip.
Mr. Greif asked about ridership growth in Brooklyn. Mr. Amarosa stated that Brooklyn has been among the largest growth areas in the last few years. The L train has been the line with the greatest growth in recent years.
Mr. Goldstein asked if anyone has requested the Office of Management and Budget to measure impacts of the 2010 bus cuts on ridership. Mr. Amarosa responded by stating that they have worked with Operations Planning to look at this issue. In some areas, ridership increased on the subway after the bus cuts. Mr. Amarosa said that he would have to reply at a later time if the Council wanted further information about the impact of cuts, as he did not have this information with him. He said that the 2010 subway cuts had very little impact on ridership elsewhere, except on M train, but the bus cuts had a significant impact. He said that he would forward the Council a copy of the study on the impacts of the cuts.
Jan Wells asked whether, when there is an increase in ridership, those who analyze ridership changes check near affected subway stations to see if development has contributed to ridership growth. Mr. Amarosa responded that first they look internally, but they also look at new development in the area of stations with ridership growth. He said that they have not looked at ridership growth in enough depth to isolate the impact of new development from other factors.
Ellyn Shannon said that having the data that is collected available to the public would be useful. Mr. Amarosa replied that annual and average daily ridership by station is presented on the MTA website, but the ridership information that would be used by application developers is different than this.
Steve Mayo wanted to know who else, other than Operations Planning, uses these data and why. Mr. Hickey responded that they also use ridership data to calculate revenue. The data is also used by the Office of System Safety and other offices within NYC Transit. Mr. Mayo said that he would echo other comments that had been made about making these data more available. He also suggested that graduate students might be able to help in making the data more available.
Ms. Mason asked if the guests collect information on intermodal trips. Mr. Hickey said that they know about bus to subway or and subway to bus transfers, but not whether someone transfers to or from a commuter rail service.
Ms. Wells asked if the guests communicate with the commuter railroads and get survey data that the railroads collect about the next part of a rider’s inbound trip.
Mr. Goldstein asked whether NYC Transit can tell through joint tickets the point of origin for riders who use both commuter rail and NYC Transit. Mr. Hickey responded that Uniticket riders are a small subset of all riders and this information would have limited usefulness.
Mr. Greif asked whether information on bus ridership by route is available. Mr. Henderson said that this information is available on the NYC Transit website.
Ms. Mason asked if the focus of the data collection and analysis done by the guests is primarily financial. Mr. Hickey responded that since their office’s function is management information and budget analysis, their analysis is oriented toward financial factors.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.
New York City Transit Riders Council
March 22, 2012
I regret to inform you that Shirley Genn has shared with us her decision to resign from the NYC Transit Riders Council. Shirley said that she is unable to continue to carry out her responsibilities as a member and wanted to ensure that a new member is chosen promptly. We hope to have her back with us at a later meeting to express our appreciation for all that she has done as a part of this Council.
I’m sure that you may have seen news reports about efforts to “save” the five-station extension of the G train in Brooklyn, which was put in place during work on the Culver Viaduct. Advocates, along with several elected officials, have implied that a decision has already been made to cut G service back to the route prior to the Culver Viaduct project, but I want to make it clear that no decision has yet been made on the future of service after the Viaduct work is complete. In fact, there are good operational reasons to maintain the current service pattern and substantial interest at NYC Transit in continuing G service to Church Avenue. NYC Transit will make an assessment closer to the completion of the Culver Viaduct project and make a decision with input from riders and the community.
The G line extension has been very popular, but this part of Brooklyn isn’t the only place where ridership has been spiking upward. In 2011 weekend subway ridership reached its highest average level, 5.4 million, since 1947. Average 2011 weekday subway ridership was 5.3 million, a level not seen since 1951. With these new figures, the ridership losses suffered during the recent recession have been more than made up and we are back on a growth path. While these numbers are a cause for celebration, we aren’t hearing as much about plans for increased service. Crowded subway cars are becoming the norm not only in peak periods, but also in all but a few early morning hours seven days a week. We must continue to press for service that is appropriate to the demand or we are just telling riders to find another way to travel.
The first round of FASTRACK weeknight closures wrapped up last Friday morning with the completion of the initial work on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. The reports on the first four FASTRACK closures were positive, but we have requested and are waiting for NYC Transit to complete a more detailed study of the issues, costs, and benefits associated with the program. I also believe that there are issues that will have to be addressed before FASTRACK is expanded beyond parts of Manhattan that have multiple subway options. The next FASTRACK shutdowns will occur the week of April 9 on the Seventh Avenue line.
We wrote a letter to NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan conveying the Council’s concern about the continuing abuse of the 34th Street bus lanes. We noted that vehicles improperly stopping in the bus lanes are making it impossible for the Select Bus Service (SBS) operating in the corridor to realize its full potential. The letter also states that we had written to Ms. Sadik-Khan in late 2009, prior to the implementation of SBS with many of the same issues, and that the City must make a commitment to bus lane enforcement for transit service to function as designed. Copies of the letter were sent to the NYPD Commissioner and Chief of the Traffic Bureau.
In your packets today is a letter that we received from NYCT President Tom Prendergast with an update on 7 Line service. While this is important work, it is also a major inconvenience for the communities that the 7 line serves. The area’s elected officials have been very active on the issue and NYC Transit has made a substantial effort to deal with the issues that they have raised.
On March14 Bill Henderson attended a public meeting on Select Bus Service improvements to the S79 route on Staten Island. The improvements that are scheduled to be implemented starting this fall are very limited, consisting of rush hour only bus lanes for part of the route, traffic signal priority and other improvements, sidewalk and street crossing improvements, and a reduced number of S79 stops while other buses in the corridor handle local trips. In the long term there may be an additional short bus lay-by lane, and a few reconfigured bus stations added. This service is to retain on-board fare payment.
Thanks to our Hunter Public Service Scholar, Shanni Liang, who in the course of her research noticed some Chinese language service diversion posters that had been poorly translated from English. Shanni was able to provide a better translation for some wording on the posters, and Karyl Berger sent it to Margaret Coffey, NYC Transit Vice President of Marketing. As a result, Ms. Coffey will be meeting with the company that does these translations for NYC Transit to bring these errors to their attention.
Please mark your calendars for the NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum, which will be held on April 25 from 5 to 7 pm in the 20th floor conference room at 2 Broadway. Darryl Irick will be our featured guest, and he will be bringing members of his staff to answer riders’ questions. We always get a good turnout of riders with a range of issues, so it is important for members to be there to hear what the riders are saying.